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Members Respond to Rod Paige


Tell Paige to move on

A grassroots political organizing group, MoveOn.org, has created an online petition that demands the firing of Secretary Paige. Sign the petition today by visiting www.firepaige.org.

Dozens of angry WEAC members have sent e-mails to U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, condemning his remark in which he called the NEA a "terrorist organization."

In an article about Paige's remarks to a meeting of the nation's governors, OnWEAC provided Paige's e-mail address and asked members to copy their e-mails to OnWEAC (see story). As of Friday (March 5, 2004), OnWEAC received copies of 84 e-mails sent to Paige.

Some members, including Cathleen Hernandez of Waukesha, praised WEAC and NEA for their quick and forceful responses to Paige. Hernandez wrote:

"I would like to thank you and our (WEAC) President Stan Johnson for your quick response to the hurtful remarks of Rod Paige to the governors of the United States. I am grateful that I am a member of such a great organization that replied so quickly and eloquently to Secretary Paige's comments.

I have dedicated my life to teaching for over 26 years and I was shocked to hear such a remark about my profession from someone who is supposed to be working to improve education in America.

Both Stan and (NEA President) Reg Weaver let everyone know that an attack such as this is an attack on all teachers and the diverse group of people represented by the NEA. We are the NEA and we are the ones making a difference in the lives of children! I have dedicated my life to teaching for over 26 years and I was shocked to hear such a remark about my profession from someone who is supposed to be working to improve education in America. We all need to work together to stop Mr. Bush and his attempts to dismantle the public education system upon which this country was founded. We know who is working to help every child attend a great school – it is a great organization – the NEA, and the NEA is us."

Following is a small sample of comments sent to Paige:

Secretary Paige:
My wife and I were very saddened by your remarks. We understand that you later apologized, but that does not undo the damage you caused. I am a retired army veteran, and a practicing teacher. I believe that I have a pretty good idea of what the term "terrorist" means.

Right now, many of my friends who are serving in the military are fighting terrorists. They are fighting for your right of free speech. I am afraid that you have abused that right. I believe that you need to resign as a result of your comments.

Roger Zee
Darlington

• • •

Dear Mr. Paige:
I am deeply disappointed by the cheap shot you have chosen to take against teachers by referring to them as terrorists.

I must remind you that "teacher" is actually an antonym for "terrorist." We give of ourselves daily in an effort to build responsible, educated, problem-solving citizens.

Based upon my experiences as a teacher, I must remind you that "teacher" is actually an antonym for "terrorist." We give of ourselves daily in an effort to build responsible, educated, problem-solving citizens, many of whom come from broken homes. We encourage growth and achievement, not the destruction of cruel terrorists. We are unable to vote for raises for ourselves as do those in Washington, D.C., so how dare you criticize us for uniting in our efforts to achieve a reasonable wage! Your choice of words is reprehensible.

Julie Esche
Richfield

• • •

Dear Mr. Paige:
The words you chose to use about teachers were shocking and demeaning to me as an educator of 33 years. I am married to a teacher and my daughter became a teacher who also married a teacher. I consider this my legacy. ...

If you were in my class you would have not been given a warning (yellow) you would have gone right to the RED thinking square. You would be there for violating my basic classroom rules: You have the right to your opinion and NO PUT DOWNS! You perhaps would even be taken to the office and your parents called.

In closing, SHAME ON YOU!

Kathleen Leadley
Green Bay

• • •

Dear Secretary Paige:

I have been an educator for 30 years and have always been proud to be affiliated with both the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the National Education Association.

I am NEA, and when you attack the organization you attack my life’s work and me.

I was horrified to hear your remarks and deeply resent your comments implying that we are "terrorists." Since 9/11 that word has become a very frightening one in our communities. Linking professional educators to terrorism is demeaning and once again illustrates the inability of the current administration to understand the service and dedication that professional educators exhibit on a daily basis.

I personally do not feel that you act in the best interest of education when you openly attack our professional organization. I am NEA, and when you attack the organization you attack my life’s work and me. An apology is not enough; I would like you to resign. With all due respect, there is most certainly someone who will better serve the needs of our children and teachers.

Mary Kay Hammes
Waukesha

• • •

Dear Secretary Paige:

I have been a Wisconsin teacher for 36 years in both private and public schools. I have taught students from kindergarten to graduate school. I hold a BA degree in Political Science, an MS degree in Guidance and Counseling, and an MS degree in Educational Administration. I am a member of the National Board of Certified Counselors, a member of the Board of the Wisconsin School Counselors Association, a former member of the Board of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, and a former Wisconsin UniServ president.

As an ex-police officer, I have great respect for the rule of law. Your comment, that as a member of the NEA, I am a member of a terrorist organization, is professionally and individually offensive to me. The Constitution of the United States of America assures me that I have every right to disagree with the actions of my government without fear of retaliation. Your position, that because an organization disagrees with you, that organization is "obstructionist" and "terrorist," is constitutionally, legally, and morally untenable. You may possess the positional authority of educational leadership, but you have abrogated the respect of myself and possibly millions of other dedicated teachers throughout the country. As this is not the first time you have denigrated the American public school teacher, I feel you no longer have the necessary credibility to be an effective voice for public education in this country.

I request an apology and your immediate resignation.

Most disappointedly,
John Cerny, BA, MS, MSED, NCC
Lena

• • •

Mr. Paige:

My husband (who is a practicing public educator) and I (who am about to complete my certification in education) are both very disappointed with your choice of words when speaking of the NEA and all such teachers' unions. Teachers are a special lot of people who put up with low pay (for the amount of work and continued education we have to complete) and lack of respect from the overall general population while being dedicated to our students. We definitely don't do what we do in order to get rich or have a lot of notoriety. We do it because we understand the importance of educating people, helping them to be functioning members of society, and because we just love kids (no matter how they treat us sometimes).

I hope that you will make a public apology at the very least if not consider backing down from your post after showing that you have such a low regard for educators. We need to be working together, listening to what the other has to say, and not fighting against each other like this.

This is why we are disappointed with your harsh words, stating that the NEA is a "terrorist organization." Yes, we have not agreed with many of the choices made with the "No Child Left Behind" legislation because we feel that it is overall very unrealistic and punitive both for teachers and for students. There are better ways to make sure that our educational system is the best, and here in Wisconsin we have shown what we as public educators can do. ...

My husband and I are very strong supporters of our president, and despite the No Child Left Behind legislation, we intend to vote for him at this point. However, we are very disappointed to know that he has people in his cabinet who are willing to make such terrible comments as you made. My husband and I are born-again Christians, and we feel that it is important that we be in the public school system in order to make a difference in the lives of children. Because of our beliefs, we are very happy to have a president who supports many of our views. However, we are being hurt (as well as many other Christian teachers) because we choose to practice in the public schools. My husband and I have already dropped our backing of our previous governor because of the damage he was trying to do to schools and because of some ungodly actions we saw him take in other areas. We hope that we can continue to support our president, and that he will take into consideration all of the people he is affecting out here through his actions in education. Further, comments such as the one you made cannot be laughed off or forgotten about by simply saying that it was said in the "heat of the moment." These are comments made based on your internal feelings, and they cannot be taken back. I hope that you will make a public apology at the very least, if not consider backing down from your post after showing that you have such a low regard for educators. We need to be working together, listening to what the other has to say, and not fighting against each other like this.

Thank you,
Leeann Klein
Two Rivers

• • •

Dear Secretary Paige:

Your recent comment that the NEA is a terrorist organization is not only shocking but reflects a lack of integrity, intelligence and leadership. Someone who occupies the position of Secretary of Education should, at the very least, demonstrate these characteristics.

Your lack of respect for the very people who make a difference in the lives of children, the very people your office aims to influence, is unconscionable. Only weak leaders who have no leadership skills resort to such outrageous, inflammatory comments as yours. Working with teachers, instead of against them, should be one of your most important goals. It would be like a general demoralizing the troops as they go into battle. I don't think that general would remain in charge very long.

With your apparent distaste for teachers made public, your resignation should be the next step.

Kathy Champeau
Muskego
Teacher for 32 years

Posted March 5, 2004

Education News